Sponsored by the Association of Black Faculty, Staff and Administrators, the event drew employees and special guests of the University to Conte Forum's Shea Room to hear Harris, a 1984 Law School alumnus, praise the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and ask members of his generation to carry on King's leadership.
University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and Affirmative Action Director Barbara Marshall pose with Suffolk Juvenile Court Associate Justice Leslie Harris at yesterday's annual Unity Breakfast in the Conte Forum Shea Room.
"Martin Luther King was a pivotal part of my life," said Harris, who recounted his brief but memorable meeting with King.
"We who are in my age group, who have taken part, who have reaped the rewards of the civil rights movement have an obligation to pay back those people."
University President William P. Leahy, SJ, also spoke at the event, which he said signified Boston College's desire to uphold King's vision of peace and brotherhood.
"As we come together to recall Dr. King, we also reflect on our own campus and what we do to bridge the gaps that may exist here," he said. "We are committed to work together and be unified."
Harris described his youth in Chicago and his involvement in the civil rights movement, as well as the tension he experienced and observed during an often turbulent time. From that era, he said, came the opportunities which enabled him to attend the Law School and pursue a career in a highly esteemed profession. Other African-Americans, such as Colin Powell, also have been able to realize their full potential because of the civil rights movement, he added.
But this progress has not been uniform for all African-Americans, Harris pointed out. Increasing numbers of black children are being born into poverty and are at risk from inadequate health care or a dangerous living environment, he said, and face the challenge of obtaining a decent education. The changing economic structure in the US makes finding stable employment less likely, he added.
African-Americans who work in prestigious and influential institutions, such as colleges and universities, can help bring about a more positive outlook for the youth who want to follow the same path in adulthood, Harris said.
"We have that heightened sense of responsibility that comes with age and it takes strength, commitment and a vision to do what must be done," he said.
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